Wednesday, March 18, 2009 -- Week of 3 Lent, Year One
Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, 386
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 954)
Psalms 119:97-120 (morning) 81, 82 (evening)
Jeremiah 8:18 - 9:6
It is common to think of God as distant, removed and unmoved, absolute and Holy other. Yet Jeremiah speaks of the weeping anguish of a grieving God who expresses vulnerability and pain over the suffering of God's people. "My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. ...O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!"
I remember teaching Ethics to a class of high school seniors at Trinity School in Natchez when I was just out of seminary. Toward the end of the year, one of their friends was killed in a shooting. He was walking with his date to the Senior Ball, he in tuxedo, she in her formal gown, when a younger boy ran by suddenly and snatched her purse away. Acting with chivalry, the tuxedoed senior ran to rescue his date's purse. He was on the track team and was faster than the fleeing thief. As he caught up with the younger boy, the child panicked, turned, pointed a gun, and shot the other boy dead.
Our shocked class talked about what had happened. Where was God in all of this? Why could God not prevent something so horrible? We spoke about this present, intimate, vulnerable, anguished and grieving God. When the bullet entered their friend's body, it also entered Christ's body, and God felt once again the pain and horror of innocent death. As the young boy turned and pulled the trigger, God's heart broke in agony for his beloved child who was acting with such foolish violence, and whose life would now turn so dark. God's Spirit felt more deeply than we can experience the pain that now filled their lives, the anguish of parents whose child was gone, the similar suffering of the parents whose child had done such a horrible thing, and who now would be taken from them as he faced a life marked by prison and guilt. God is inside of all of this, weeping, grieving, vulnerable and pained over the suffering of God's people.
And deep beneath the anguish, God is quietly doing what God does best, bringing life out of death -- resurrection and new hope.
As I write this I remember a similar incident that happened on the streets of New York City when I was doing my Clinical Pastoral Education chaplaincy at St. Luke's Hospital in the city. I visited a young boy in the ICU; he was at that awkward stage of adolescence, around sixteen or so, when his arms and legs had outgrown the rest of him. He had been bouncing a basketball down the street, when a younger boy, with a long rap sheet that started when he was six, walked up and shot him because he didn't like the way he laughed. Now the child was on life-support. Days later, the family removed the life-support and he died. In a press conference, they expressed their forgiveness toward the boy who shot their son and their grief for his parents who had also lost their child in that moment.
The boy who died was in the Roman Catholic seminary school, and his hope was to become a priest someday. I vowed that if I became a priest, I would serve my priesthood in some sense of memory and honor of his unfulfilled hopes. I have always remembered him. His name is Hugh B. McEvoy. Some times when I'm feeling weary or overwhelmed, I think of him, and I find new energy. In some real way, I believe that he still lives in and through me. I feel a deep sense of connection, awe and gratefulness toward him, an invisible string of the Spirit, bringing life out of death.
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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
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Our Rule of Life
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Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church